Beware of Buying Storm Damaged Vehicles

A recent report suggested that Arizona may one of the landing places for thousands of vehicles damaged by Sandy, a storm that hit the northeast United States during October 2012. Based on insurance claims reported following the storm upwards of 250,000 vehicle could be involved.

When buying a used car, it is important to consider:

Having a reputable car repair shop inspect your vehicle
Look at the door speakers as they can reveal water damage
Check for rust, particularly on screws in the console where you would not expect water damage to be visible
Look for water stains, sand, mildew and even under the carpets for dirt
Buy from reputable car dealership

Many vehicles damaged in storm Sandy were deemed totaled. Buyer beware.

Maximize Your Arizona Auto Insurance Discounts

When buying auto insurance be sure to ask the following questions or at least be aware of the following:

Discounts for good student drivers. If you have a child enrolled in high school or college and they receive a 3.0 grade point average they may qualify for a discount on your auto insurance.

A Paid in Full Discount is becoming a safe and easy way to cut a little bit off your auto insurance premium. If you have a credit card and are able to pay it off in a relatively short time this may be an option if you do not have the cash to pay your premium in full with cash.

Credit? It’s true and most people are now finally aware that credit can and usually does affect your credit. If you have bad credit or marginal credit do some research on how to improve your credit score. You will not only save when you guy a house or car but likely you can cut your insurance premiums too.

Why does credit affect insurance? Insurance companies spend tons of money on research. If they can prove something they will implement it if the idea helps cut costs and improves profits. Their research indicates the better credit clients file fewer claims. They have substantial data to back up their claim, even though credit feels like a bad partnership with insurance.

You will automatically receive a discount for having multiple vehicles and of course their is the standard auto/home discount for insuring both policies with the same carrier.

Buying insurance from an Independent Insurance Broker. Choice Insurance of Arizona is an independent insurance agency that is able to quote and write insurance through leading and top rated carriers, such as Hartford, AAA, MetLife, Progressive, Unitrin, Badger Mutual, Infinity and more.

Some insurance agents can only give you one quote – their own.

Contact us and let our agency shop around for you to help you pay LESS.

Health Insurance or a Ford Fiesta?

The Kaiser Family Foundation and Health Research and Educational Trust combined their energies on a survey that found the cost of health insurance for a family of 4 now exceeds $15,000 per year.

That is enough money to buy a brand new Ford Fiesta.

The survey was conducted from January 2011 through May 2011.

If you need health insurance for you or your family I have someone who has been in the health insurance field for many years. I have referred a number of clients to this person over the years.

Call me if you want to shop your health insurance to find a better rate.

It is not a big secret that Democrats do not like Health Savings Accounts. One reason is likely that HSA’s keep some American’s independent and in charge of their health insurance destiny.

What is an HSA?

They are tax-deductible accounts you open at a bank and use the money only towards health care expenses. They must be combined with a catastrophic-type health insurance policy. In other words, for someone who does not care to have every nickel and dime covered by their health insurance a catastrophic-type policy that covers major health issues, combined with an HSA, is ideal.

The money in an HSA rolls over from year to year. It is a product that allows an individual to pay for their own health costs yet manage the money in a prudent manner. If you are using your own money to cover small health expenses are you going to run to the doctor for minor health issues? Doesn’t that scenario sound a situation that would likely lower health costs?? Indeed, it does.

Compare that with a person who has a comprehensive health plan with a low co-pay. We all know people who run to the doctor for every sniffle, flu-symptom and sneeze. That is their right as their health policy allows it. However, every visit to the doctor, hospital or emergency room costs money and sometimes big dollars.

If the Democrats really and truly wanted to do what is right for America and our citizens HSA’s would be on the table as something in the health industry that is right and needs to be kept.

As it appears, the Democrats want to scrap Health Savings Accounts and that is an ominous sign that everyone needs to understand clearly as to the direction they want to take us.

What is Long Term Care Insurance?

It is an insurance policy that pay the expenses relating to: home health care (if you are sick or hurt and someone has to come to your home to care for you), assisted living facility or nursing home.

If you do some basic research on how much a nursing home costs you will find it to be incredibly expensive – upwards of $70,000 or more per year, every year and much more in some parts of the country. How can a typical family afford to pay so much for nursing home care? The truth is – they cannot. The costs of a nursing home can cause a family to fall into bankruptcy.

Imagine saving money all your life only to lose it in a couple years due to the cost of long term care. Even the costs of home care or an assisted living facility is burdensome.

You may assume the government will take care of these costs for you. Yes, but only after you have spent all your money first. So you end up broke either way.

How can you combat the costs of nursing home related costs and help ensure you do not go broke paying for long term care? Simple – by purchasing a Long Term Care Insurance plan that covers those costs.

The Hyundai Corporation has issued a recall of their 2001 Sonata, which affects about 139,000 vehicles. A reported manufacturing defect in the steering column can potentially cause drivers to lose control while driving. According to Hyundai there have been no reports of accidents or injuries relating to this possible defect.

Every automaker has been ramping up their safety and quality control on the heels of the Toyota issues. Hyundai Motor America has reported U.S. sales are up 17%. The new Sonata has been selling extremely well this year.

Hyundai Sonata owners can call 888-327-4236 for more information.

Four years ago our family bought a brand new Hyundai Elantra, figuring it would cut gas costs and be a dependable and economic vehicle. Plus, Hyundai offered a 10 year warranty that we paid extra for. It covers the vehicle front to back for any repair with zero deductible up to one hundred thousand miles or ten years of driving.

And that explains Hyundai buyers in a nutshell, for the most part. It’s a car maker who has carved out a nice niche as a mid-lower end, affordable and dependable maker of small to midsized vehicles.

But it is the goal of Hyundai to be a major player in the luxury market too. Yet, they seem to have such a nice job defining themselves in the other categories that car buyers are sometimes having difficulty putting the Hyundai Genesis (and now the Equus) in the same class as Lexus, Mercedes and BMW.

Yet, if you compare features and quality you would have a hard time stating that Mercedes is a substantially better product, especially when you factor in cost. A Hyundai Equus sells for around $55,000. A Mercedes S550 sells for around $91,000. The Equus, which will be available for purchase in November 2010, includes back massagers, free Apple Ipod, 17 speaker surround sound system.

The company is hearing a chorus of critics claims their approach of not creating a brand new luxury car line is a failed approach. Many point to VW’s experiment in 2003 as an example when they introduced the Phaeton model.

Yet, one comment I hear regularly is how Hyundai is such a dependable model, even on a lower end vehicle like the Elantra. Perhaps consumers will come around to their luxury market, knowing the brand is far less expensive than many competitors, while offering some of the best quality.

We also offer excellent rates on Arizona auto insurance and Arizona homeowner insurance. Give us a try and get a quote. You may be very surprised at the monies you can save.

Buying Discontinued Vehicles

With news coming out that automotive manufacturers are permanently shutting down certain models it may be a great time for consumers to pick up a new vehicle at a substantially reduced price.

You may be able to pick up a Sky Roadster in the low 20’s, an Outlook Crossover in the mid 20’s, Toyota Matrix in the high teens, Chevy Colorado high teens, and more. Check your local dealerships for deals.

It is being reported that manufacturers may shutter as many as 50 different models. That should create a definite consumer advantage when you are price shopping.

Worried about the future availability of parts? More than likely parts will be readily available for most models for many years to come. As long as there is demand parts will be made for a vehicle.

And don’t forget to contact Choice Insurance of Arizona for low cost insurance quotes.

Leading all U.S. states by far, California is on a major push to install more than 5,000 charging stations in what they hope will be a successful drive to increase the number of electric cars on the roads.

Experts are watching carefully and with great interest.

California has created numerous incentives designed to boost electric car sales, such as generous rebates. The state is funneling some $200 million a year through 2015 into the low-emission vehicle market.

A California representative indicated the goal is to have, by 2014, over seven thousand all-electric vehicles and over 20,000 hybrids on the road.

Tips for Buying a New Vehicle

I don’t normally buy new vehicles, preferring instead to buy a vehicle slightly older so someone else pays for the depreciation.

However, in 2006 we purchased a brand new car.

And it was the first time I ever felt as though we did ok on the purchase. In the past we walked out of the dealership feeling stung by the experience.

What was different this time around?

I followed these steps:

1) Do your research and decide exactly what vehicle make and model you want to buy
2) Go on the internet and find websites for the dealerships in your area
3) Contact these dealerships via email and tell them you are interested in buying that specific vehicle make and model
4) Give each dealership the timeframe you expect to make a purchase
5) Let each dealership compete for your business through email with you (on an individual basis)
6) Do not let the dealerships know the others who are also competing for your business, but do let them know you are shopping
7) A week before you are set to buy let them know the exact day you are making a decision and tell them you need their best offer

This plan worked to perfection for us.

Filing an Auto Insurance Claim

No one likes filing an insurance claim – it means our lives have been disrupted with something that will probably cost us time, money, aggravation or all of the above.

When you file a claim, have a pen and paper ready.

Write down who you talk to and the date. Keep a note pad specifically for the intent of recording every conversation or promise made along the way.

I firmly believe most claims reps work hard. I firmly believe that most claims reps try to serve the client to the best of their ability.

But sometimes you run into situations or people where the best intent goes awry. And that is where you need to document.

Claims situations can be stressful enough without having a claims rep who gives poor service or does not return calls. I have seen or heard this complaint before. But for all the claims that happen these complaints are few and far between.

If you have trouble with a claims rep contact your agent and let them get involved.

Credit Scoring – What you should know

The Michigan Supreme Court has ruled that insurance companies in their state may use credit scoring.

It’s a practice used in a lot of states, including Arizona, to partially determine auto and home insurance rates.

Some insurance companies utilize credit scoring to a greater degree than others. One carrier may look at credit first and place a consumer in a specific tier based on their insurance credit score. Then other factors are added into the mix. Other carriers may give credit scoring the same or less affect as other factors, such as driving record, zip code, age, type of car.

Credit scoring is great for those with great credit.

It may not be so great if you have bad credit or average credit.

If you are against credit scoring being used for insurance purposes, consider this. The Michigan Supreme Court ruled (in part) that insurance carriers adequately demonstrated that credit scoring is a good indicator of a person’s insurance risk. The MI court even went so far to say that credit scoring actually lowers insurance costs.

Don’t forget that having good credit will not only help you pay less for your insurance. You will also pay less for almost any other type of loan – car loans or home loans, and maybe even credit cards. Better credit allows you to secure lower interest rates (and lower payments subsequently) for a myriad of situations.

To our knowledge only 4 states prohibit credit scoring in full or partially. Those include California, Hawaii, Massachusetts and Maryland.

Who to believe?

Attorneys advertise all the time on TV and radio…..or at least so it seems.

Many of these advertisement are directed at the insurance industry. But there is one specific ad that is on radio that I find truly unfortunate. The ad says something like the following:

“If you have an accident do not settle with the insurance company until you have talked with an attorney. It is the insurance company’s job to pay you the least amount possible……..(and on and on it goes).”

The inference is that an insurance company is out to cheat or lowball everyone who has a claim.

I have been in the insurance industry since 1993 and have helped tons of clients with their insurance – and I feel quite different about this issue than these lawyers supposedly do. My experience and the experience of my clients is in opposition of this attorney advertisement.

First of all, almost no one is happy in a claim situation. Your car is damage, you are injured, have been robbed, or your home was hit with a fire, storm or involved in some other type of claim. Almost NO ONE is happy to be involved in a claim. It is a negative situation from the start and sometimes filled with people who are angry and emotional.

While it would be easy to say my loyalty is with the insurance industry and (of course) I would defend them. I would tell you that there have been publicized events where insurance carriers allegedly did not do the right thing necessarily. There are examples where insurance companies have been accused of not treating an insured properly or not handling a claim correctly. They are not perfect, for sure, and I agree with that assessment.

However, there are literally tens of thousands of claims going on at any time with hundreds of insurance carriers, maybe hundreds of thousands of various claims per year. As a guess, I would say 95% of these are handled smoothly and without fanfare.

I officed for about two years within a claims office (rent was right) one time during my career and became very familiar with many of the claims reps. After two years I came away believing that these folks work very hard, try to do the right thing by the company and policyholder and simply did their best to follow the guidelines of the insurance contract.

Isn’t that what all of us would expect in a claim situation? Well…..everyone but the legal field it seems.

Credit reports typically include information on three types of public records – bankruptcies, tax liens and judgements.

Core Score

All that is about to change with the advent of Core Score.

Core Score is information obtained from sources such as rental applications and evictions, auto title loans and payday loans, and transactions with rent to own businesses.

This information may help those consumers who off the radar a bit and traditionally stay away from typical loans. And certainly, it could further negatively impact others.

Just another reason to stay within your budget, do not purchase what you cannot afford and buy on credit only if you can pay it off.

Who Has the Biggest Car Market in the World?

Here Come the Chinese

In 2009, stimulus programs in China helped it to become the world’s largest car market. SAIC Motor Corp said car sales continue to rev up to tune of 44% higher sales in the first half of 2010 with 1.77 million vehicles sold.

However, there are reports that China is beginning to scale back their automotive incentives, which will likely result in few car sales.

Chevrolet, meanwhile, is reversing an old strategy. Typically they would provide smaller vehicles with minimal extra features. Beginning with the Chevy Cruze, GM is including as standard items features such as 10 airbags and stability control. All these standard “extras” will come at a price. The Cruze is already being sold in places like Europe and Asia.

GM hopes to de-emphasize SUV’s and trucks and gain more profitability from vehicles like the Cruze. They have plans to overhaul other models to increase sales. Those include the Aveo and Impala by making them sportier and sleeker.

Ford is using wireless features in more and more of their vehicles. They are adding Wi-Fi transmitters into models such as the Edge and Lincoln. Soon, drivers will have internet access in their vehicles.

Well, it really should not come as a total surprise.

China has passed the United States as the worlds # 1 car market. Why should that surprise anyone. China has a billion or two people and the United States ultimately cannot compete with the raw population numbers of China. The key for communist China was and is allowing their people to begin earning enough money to afford cars.

Also helping the Chinese automotive market was a massive government incentive program that pushed sales up 46% in just one year. Can that trend continue? Highly unlikely.

About 10.4 million vehicles were sold in the U.S. in 2009, a drop of 21% from a year earlier. The only month the United States outsold China was August of 2009, when the Cash for Clunkers was in full operation.

Some analysts believe the U.S. will regain the top auto sales market sooner than later once China scales back on its government incentives. Plus, American consumers made an obvious choice in the past year to reduce large purchases with an economy that has yet to fully bounce back.

Report Card for Cars in U.S.

Here they go again.

The U.S. Government, in their drive to push more people into the vehicles they want the public buying, is proposing a requirement that every vehicle sold come with a letter grade.

All electric and hybrid vehicles will receive an “A” grade and every other vehicle a “B” grade or less. The lowest grade given will be a “D”.

This idea reminded me of the first time I saw letter grades on the windows of restaurants in California. Those grades definitely would effect my decision whether to eat at a particular restaurant or not because it was dealing with things like cleanliness.

Will it work in the automotive industry? Only time will tell. Once consumers understand that it is only a grade representing a vehicle’s fuel efficiency and emissions they likely will overlook the grade. Apparently, the new grading system will have nothing to do with the value vs cost of the vehicle, safety issues, warranty offered, or mechanical track record of a particular model.

Of course, small cars will generally receive the highest grades and lower fuel efficient vehicles the lowest grades. Sometimes what the government forgets is the pocketbook of consumers.

If someone can only afford to buy a $14,000 vehicle it’s not likely they will fork over $30,000 for an electric Nissan Leaf. And most wealthy people who can afford to buy a Leaf are more likely to buy a Lexus or other luxury vehicle.

Things change and that includes how you care for your vehicle. Here are some tips for taking care of your vehicle and ideas for saving money too.

Tips for Caring for Your Vehicle

1) Do not use premium fuel unless your owner’s manual specifically requires it. Some manuals “recommend” premium gasoline but it is not necessary.

2) You no longer have to change your oil every 3,000 miles if you own a newer vehicle. Most newer vehicles today are fine having the oil changed every 5,000 or 7,000 miles. Read your owner’s manual.

3) Change your air filter around every 25,000 miles. If you delay this could result in a filter that becomes clogged and could hurt your gas mileage.

4) Have your mechanic check your brake pads. It’s better replacing pads versus your brake drum or rotors.

5) Avoid expensive mileage-boosting additives. There is not a whole lot of evidence they really do much for your vehicle. Advertising for these items increase when gas prices rise.

6) Vehicle need a tune up? Engines for newer vehicles today are tuned by on board computers. Don’t fall for this gimmic.

7) Check engine light on? Don’t ignore it. Your vehicle’s computer is alerting you to a potential problem. Ignoring it could cost you more in the long run.

You may have expected electric vehicles to take hold in the consumer market primarily. But businesses have been an expanding market for electric vehicles. Staples, the office supplier, purchased 41 electric trucks with plans to maybe buy an additonal 40 somewhere down the road.

The electric trucks have a top speed of about 50 miles per hour. But commercial delivery fleets generally drive a specific route and a limited number of miles per day. That fits perfectly into the offerings of most electric vehicles, which have a limited battery range.

The electric trucks cost about $30,000 more than a diesel, but Staples officials predict they will recoup that cost in less than four years through various savings, such as fuel costs, brakes (electric vehicles use regenerative braking), fuel filters, oil, transmission fluid and belts.

Other companies moving into the electric vehicle market includes AT&T, FedEx, PepsiCo, and Frito-Lay.

Virtual Dashboards

While we have read about using “touch” technology on electronics such as phones and laptops, the next wave of touch technology just might be in your automobile.

For example, Volkswagon is launching a redesigned A8 model that will include, as an option, a touch pad that allows you to send commands to the vehicle’s navigation and bluetooth system with the touch of a finger. As you touch the device the car will repeat by voice the letters back to you. By using voice commands a driver would be able to determine a location. Another upgrade being worked on is a camera inside the vehicle that will track the movement of a driver’s head – to determine if a driver may be falling asleep. The camera will notify the driver if it believes that is the case.

In recent years the costs to power such technology has decreased significantly.

However, the big concerns from some circles is the ability for drivers to utilize such technology without becoming even more distracted than they already are. Most of the technology, at the moment, is being directed toward the upper end of the vehicle market.

Volkswagon, for one, will install the technology increasingly throughout all their models as they continue to master the device. Ford and Lincoln models are also launching touch technology.

When Should You Drop Full Coverage?

As your vehicle gets older you may be wondering if the time comes to remove the full coverage and save the money.

When should you remove full coverage? How old should a vehicle be before it is ready for just liability?

Full coverage or Liability?

The best solution is to simply ask your insurance agent to provide a comparison. See how much money you would save by dropping full coverage. There is a chance the premium savings is small enough to warrant keeping full coverage on the vehicle.


A gentleman walked into my office for car insurance. With his current carrier he only had liability insurance on his older truck. Normally I would have recommended liability only but noticed the cost to add full coverage was very reasonable.

The client agreed and we put full coverage on the truck.

Some months later the client called and said the truck had caught fire and was destroyed. He ended up getting money for this truck because we put full coverage on it.

The client revealed to me that he had no money to buy another vehicle and the insurance saved his day.

The moral of the story is to ask your insurance agent to give you a comparison.

The Chevy Volt

A Chevy Volt caught fire while parked at a National Highway Traffic Safety Administration testing center. The fire burned other surrounding vehicles in the parking lot but there were no reports of injuries. Lithium ion batteries, used in electric vehicles, are flammable.

NHTSA put forth a statement that they believe the electric vehicle is no more dangerous than a gas powered vehicle.

While President Obama has set a goal to have 1 million electric vehicles on the roads by 2015 this incident shows there is still much work to be done. GM states that they have invested 300,000 hours testing the vehicle and believe it to be safe. A spokeswoman for the Nissan Leaf said there have been no reported incidents with that vehicle.

President Obama is set on revamping federal transit rules that will steer more monies to other modes of transportation, such as street cars, bus routes and other projects.

The goal is to reduce driving, contain sprawl and create transit-related jobs.

How that will work in the Phoenix metro market is unclear. And there is no report yet whether the Phoenix area is even on the Obama administration’s radar for this type of funding. Certainly light rail has helped people ditch their vehicles in certain circumstances but the valley is fairly spread out.

The average street car costs between $3-4 million dollars. Tucson has seven street cars to purchase on order.

Portland, Oregon received about $70 million in funding last year to expand its existing downtown streetcar program. Along with the added routes and improved service has been an increase in business expansion along the streetcar routes, including retail, housing and offices.

In Tempe, apartment complexes have seen a greater tendency for students to choose housing along the light rail lines. And if a study were conducted business along that route is likely to have increased.

Teenage Drivers

You may be surprised to know this. The number one cause of death and disabling injury for teenager are motor vehicle accidents, according to one news story.

A driver in the 16-19 year old age group is 4 times more likely to have an accident and twice as likely to DIE in an accident than an older adult.

A 16 year old driver is 3x more likely to have an accident than someone age 18-19. Over 1/3 of all deaths in the 16-19 year old age range is from car accidents.

Having teenage drivers on your auto policy is a risky proposition for parents. Not only do they carry risk of hurting themselves but they carry great risk of causing damage, injury or even death to others from their inexperience. This means that, as parents, you could find yourself suffering financially from the actions taken by your teen.

Imagine if they severely injure or kill another person. Your auto insurance carrier will pay up to your policy limits and walk away. There is a great chance you could be sued personally over and above whatever your auto insurance limits cover.

It is very adviseable for parents with teenage drivers to carry an Umbrella Insurance policy. Ask me for details.

Call our office at (480) 659-0229

Beware Craigslist Scams

When my son was 16 years old and dreaming of the day we buy him a car, he knew it would not be anything fancy. It is something he understands from the day his sister was given an older vehicle as her first car.

So we look on Craigslist, which is a great place to start since many people place vehicles for sale virtually every single day. And we have made quite a few calls and sent many emails inquiring about various cars for sale.

Which has led us to the Craigslist scams.

Some of those vehicles for sale are nothing more than scam artists seeking to separate me from my money. One such scammer ran an advertisement on a 2006 Honda Accord. It was very reasonably priced, which was a tip off. However, in this economy it is not uncommon for someone to need out from under a vehicle loan or in need of quick cash.

The Honda Accord scammer emailed back a picture of a female uniformed military person claiming to be serving in the United Kingdom who needed to sell their vehicle, which was sitting in Arizona somewhere. If we only would pay them via Pay Pal or some other method they would send us clear title.

Yeah right.

We have encountered this Craigslist scam several times now. They must work often enough or these losers would not continue to run their bogus ads.

It reminds of those scam emails that used to arrive in my inbox. The person claiming to be from some foreign country trying to close a big business deal and all they needed was an American to act as a third party to complete the deal and receive a piece of the commission.

Just remember, it is sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

Thanks and God bless!
Gary Brown, Agent
(480) 659-0229